In Our Backyard: Western Rattlesnake
Did you know that the western rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus) is the only venomous snake native to British Columbia? The western rattlesnake, also known as Northern Pacific rattlesnake, lives in in the valleys and grasslands of BC’s southern interior, including the grasslands of the Thompson and Nicola Watersheds.
The western rattlesnake spends winters in dens on rocky slopes which they return to every winter. You can identify this snake due to the rattle on its tail, its narrow neck and triangular head. Read more about how to identify the Western rattlesnake.
This reptile plays an important role in healthy ecosystems by controlling rodents and providing a food source for other predators like large birds, coyotes and badgers.
These snakes use their environment to regulate their body temperature, resulting in them often basking along roadsides which frequently leads to their accidental death. The grasslands in the Thompson Watershed are being split up and, in many areas, have been lost completely, contributing to their vulnerability. To add the threats of habitat loss, fragmentation, and road mortality, rattlesnakes have a long and complex history of negative public perception, resulting in humans intentionally killing them.
Western rattlesnakes are threatened in Canada due to their declining populations and are protected under the federal Species at Risk Act and the province of BC’s Wildlife Act.
Feature photo: Ole Westby